|The defining difference between lager and ale is yeast. Ale yeast ferments faster, at warmer temperatures, and
adds more flavor. Lager yeast is slower, enjoys the cold, and instead of adding fruity or spicy flavors, provides a
blank canvas for the hops and barley to shine .Lager yeast ferments around 50 degrees Fahrenheit; that’s very
cold for a microbe,. The colder process is better at suppressing unwanted yeast flavors,
But it also means the yeast needs more time to process and remove unwanted byproducts of brewing, like
diacetyl, which leaves the unappetizing taste of popcorn butter. Because of that cool environment, fermentation
and conditioning typically take at least four weeks (about twice that of an ale). Which is why it’s ironic that your
typical craft beer drinker doesn't hold the lager in high regard—it’s trickier and takes longer to make,
despite its cheap beer reputation. Due to a lager’s empty canvas, these beers take more technical skill to brew.
If anything goes wrong with a lager, you’re going to taste it,
Ale yeast is more forgiving. So while German Oktoberfest and hoppy pilsners are delicious examples of lager
yeast, that watery Natural Light is still technically impressive for its lack of any flavors—good or bad.
The exact origin of lager yeast is a bit difficult to pin down. It emerged from brewers in southern Germany’s
Bavaria, who used cool caves to age and ferment beer. The yeast they relied on formed as a hybrid strain
parented by ale yeast and a cold-tolerant wild yeast that’s native to mountainous regions (cross-continental trade
likely brought the yeasts together). By the mid-nineteenth century, microbiology and brewing had advanced to the
point of scientists isolating lager yeast cells. That allowed laboratories to create and sell pure yeast cultures.
Those clean cultures, along with refrigeration, spread lagers across the globe, but the longer brew time remains a
huge deterrent for most craft brewers and is the reason you usually don’t see more than one lager at a taproom.
Of the 7,000-plus operations in America, there are only a handful of lager-focused brewers.
Bamberg, Germany appears on beer maps for brewing smoke-flavored beers with techniques preserved
from the medieval period. With a population of 70,000, Bamberg is also known for its well-preserved
The Schlenkerla brand made by Heller Bräu Trum (annual production approximately 15,000 hl or 12,800 US
barrels) illustrates the range of styles that may be offered in smoked form from a heavily smoked märzen (the
style most often offered with smoked flavor) and Ur-Bock to more lightly tinged weissbier and helles.
The smaller Spezial Brewery offers a more traditional range that keeps to the dark lagers with dunkel,
märzen, and seasonal bock offerings. Although Schlenkerla has been widely exported, Spezial has rarely
been seen outside its home region.
The smoke flavor in some beers comes from malt kilned directly over a wood fire. Green malt enters the
kiln at the end of germination and is heated by the wood smoke for a full 24-h cycle. Beechwood fires the
kilns, but only after being dried under cover for 1 to 2 years to reach optimal seasoning. The one exception to
this technique is Schlenkerla’s slightly smoky helles, which contains no smoked malt but picks up the flavor
from yeast previously used in the more heavily smoked beers.
Both Schlenkerla and Spezial make their own smoked malt on micromalting equipment of approximately
4,000 kg (10,000 lb) per batch within their facilities. Across town, Weyermann Malting produces smoked
malt in larger lots for other brewers both in Germany and abroad.”
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|Lager vs Ales // Bamberg,
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14,
#15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25